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For Bangladeshi garment exporters, business as usual with Russia despite sanctions – Arab News
DHAKA: Bangladeshi garment exports to Russia have not been disrupted by international sanctions on Moscow, businessmen say, as most of their transactions are made through third countries. 
The textile sector is the No. 1 industry in Bangladesh, employing over 4 million people, contributing over 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and accounting for 80 percent of its exports.
Russia is a growing destination for Bangladeshi producers and last year imported garments worth about $600 million.
When a host of Western sanctions hit Moscow, following its invasion of Ukraine in February, some Russian banks were banned from the Swift system.
Bangladeshi exporters were initially jittery about the future of their trade, but so far their businesses have not been largely affected, as according to the central bank, most of the transactions are not settled directly with Russia. 
“Apart from the Russian banks under sanctions, transactions with other Russian banks are going on normally. Besides, for doing business with Russia, our exporters don’t always need to have contact with Russia,” Serajul Islam, executive director and spokesperson of the Bangladesh Bank, told Arab News in a recent interview, adding that most of the country’s readymade garment business transactions have been through Hong Kong for many years.
“Last year, we had around $600 million in garment exports with Russia. Of this, $450 million payments were settled through Singapore, and the rest of the amount was paid through some other third countries.”
Arshad Jamal Khan, chairman of Tusuka Fashions Ltd., which supplies Melon Fashion Group — one of the biggest players in the Russian fashion market — is regularly receiving payments from his buyers in US dollars and through Swift.
“Most of our payments are being done through the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp.,” Khan said. “In 2022, we are expecting to exceed the exports of the last year. And hopefully, it will be more than $4 million since work orders worth $2.87 million are already in the pipeline.”
Sourav Chowdhury, chief executive of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Arab News that exporters have been “mostly receiving export payments like before.”
“In the context of the ongoing Ukraine war, our exports to the Russian market are a little interrupted but not yet stalled,” he said. “Shipments that are being delivered through European ports are getting delayed or interrupted in some cases. But still, we have been able to send goods to Russia.”
Chowdhury was not certain, however, how long Bangladesh would be able to sustain its trade with Russia.
“In case of a prolonged war, our garment exports to Russia will be interrupted a lot. At the moment, we are looking at the decisions taken by the global financial regulators,” he added.
“It’s a fluid situation amid this war, and everything depends on the geopolitical situation.”
ROME: The Palermo Muslim community held an interfaith iftar here with leading members of the Italian clergy and local city officials in a bid to promote, peace, respect
and integration.
The event was organized by the Tunisian community in the city, with the support of the Moroccan Consulate and the Municipal Council of Cultures, and attracted over 1,000 people.
Palermo Archbishop Corrado Lorefice and the Imam of the Piazza Gran Cancelliere Mosque Mustafa Boulaalam joined the common prayer, which was followed by a dinner with traditional Tunisian dishes.
The faithful — mostly Tunisians, Moroccans and Bangladeshis — had their prayer in Piazza Magione, a large and iconic square in the oldest part of the city center.
Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando also attended the event.
“In Palermo we believe in integration and sharing together. We want our city to be a welcoming place for every religion and culture,”
said Orlando.
He thanked the Muslim communities in Palermo “for their active presence in the religious, social and cultural texture of our city which aims to be a meeting
place for everyone.”
At the end of the event, the Tunisian community honored the mayor with a plaque to thank him “for being our sentinel of respect and human dignity.” Orlando also received from the imam his traditional hat and cloak.
Boulaalam said: “After two years of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now we finally manage to live some normality and we have the pleasure to celebrate Ramadan again together with the entire city of Palermo.
“We are pleased to let everyone know the precious message of peace marking the holy month
of Ramadan.”
JAKARTA: Millions of Indonesians were stuck for up to 15 hours in traffic jams on Saturday as they traveled back to their hometowns to spend the Muslim holiday season of Eid Al-Fitr with their families.
Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, has allowed the annual homecoming tradition known as “mudik” for the first time since it was banned for two years to curb the spread of coronavirus.
More than 85 million Indonesians, about 31 percent of the total population, are expected to travel at the end of Ramadan this year, according to a survey from the Transportation Ministry, after the government eased travel restrictions, including scrapping testing requirements for those who have received COVID-19 booster shots.
“I am so happy. I can go on mudik once again, just like the years before the pandemic. I can spend Eid Al-Fitr this year with my family and relatives,” Iwan Patoni, a 33-year-old hairstylist from Surakarta, Central Java, told Arab News.
Patoni said the trip from Banten province, where he works, to his hometown had taken him 15 hours.  
“The enthusiasm was high this year, just like before the pandemic. It was crowded, congested, and pretty tiring,” Patoni said.  
Dheamyra Aysha, a 21-year-old college student heading to the capital Jakarta from Bandung, West Java, said she was stuck on the road for 10 hours, a trip that would normally take about three hours.
“This is the first time I experienced such a long trip from Bandung to Jakarta. It’s really memorable because I’ve never had to endure a complete stop during a car journey and witnessed others protesting on the road,” Aysha told Arab News.
Aerial footage taken this week showed long lines of cars crawling along on either side of toll booths on some of the main routes out of Jakarta, with the Transportation Ministry reporting nearly 1.4 million vehicles leaving the Greater Jakarta Area since April 22.
Travelers also crowded airports, train stations, and bus terminals throughout the week, brimming with excitement as they left big cities to reach their hometowns to celebrate the religious holiday.
Indonesia grappled with one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in Asia, but the country has been easing many pandemic restrictions as the public health situation improves. However, health experts remain concerned that increased mobility and interaction might lead to another spike in coronavirus cases.
“The risk of the current situation is lower than before, but that doesn’t mean there’s no potential of an increase,” Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, told Arab News.
Indonesia’s Health Ministry spokesperson, Siti Nadia Tarmizi, said the government had sped up vaccination efforts in popular mudik destinations and points of origin as part of its COVID-19 mitigation strategy during the Eid holiday season.
“We hope (case spikes) don’t happen, but it’s also important to conduct tracing and testing to cut the spread of transmission,” Tarmizi told Arab News.
JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has condemned in the strongest terms an attack on a mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed more than 50 worshippers.
The explosion tore through the Khalifa Sahib Mosque in the western area of the city after Friday prayers for a special Ramadan congregation.
The OIC General Secretariat said that the repeated and indiscriminate attacks highlight the volatile security situation in Afghanistan, and called for the de facto authorities to take a resolute stand against whoever sponsors or orchestrates them.
“As the OIC stands in unwavering solidarity with Afghanistan and its long-suffering people, it wishes to express its deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and a speedy and full recovery to those who were injured,” it said.
ROME: Prayers at the end of Ramadan are an “occasion for strengthening the ties of solidarity and peace,” Milan’s archbishop wrote in a letter to the Italian city’s Muslim community on the eve of Eid Al-Fitr celebrations.
In a letter to the nearly 50,000 Muslims who live and work in Milan, Mauro Delpini said all believers, regardless of faith, “must strengthen their wish of peace and solidarity that religions are able to offer to the world.”
This is even truer as Europe experiences the “new emergency” represented by the Ukraine war, he added.
As he recalled that this year Lent and Easter coincided with Ramadan, Delpini said: “Christians and Muslims in Milan and around the world have lived this period in prayer. This will allow us all to recover together all those spiritual energies that are necessary for a true restart after the painful time of the pandemic.”
He thanked the Muslim community for its engagement in charity and for providing help to the needy in the city, especially during Ramadan.
The letter, which has been translated to Arabic, will be symbolically delivered to Muslim leaders and cultural centers by Catholic priests during Eid Al-Fitr celebrations on Monday.
An interfaith prayer will be held at the Islamic Cultural Center in the city of Saronno, and prayers will be held in several parks and sports centers throughout the Lombardy region.
In Palermo, capital of Sicily, over 20,000 faithful are expected to join early-morning prayers at the Foro Italico, a vast open-air area facing the sea.
Prayers there will led by Mustafa Boulaalam, imam of the mosque of Piazza Gran Cancelliere, which before 1998 was a church and was donated to the Muslim community by Palermo’s late Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo. Mayor Leoluca Orlando will represent the city at the event.
PARIS: Like quite a few on the left, 60-year-old nurse assistant Isabelle-Touria Boumhi says backing either Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential runoff last Sunday would have been choosing “between the plague and cholera.”
She did not vote. Instead, she is preparing to take part in May Day protests this coming Sunday.
And, in what could foreshadow what a newly re-elected Macron may expect when he presses ahead with pro-business reforms, including a plan to push back retirement age, Boumhi says she will take to the streets as often as needed to block this.
“It’s the only path we have left to obtain something,” said the single mother, who, with a gross salary of just under 2,000 euros ($2,107) that she needs to house and feed her and her 22-year-old daughter, who is a student, must count every cent.
“I used to allow myself something extra once in a while, but now, once I’ve paid the electricity bill, the rent … I would struggle to go on holidays.”
The cost of living was the main theme in the presidential election campaign and looks set to be equally prominent ahead of June legislative elections that Macron’s party and its allies must win if he is to be able to implement his policies.
His current government put together price caps on gas and electricity price increases and he has promised further steps, including increasing pensions, to try and protect consumers’ purchasing power amid a steep rise in prices.
But inflation reached a new high of 5.4 percent in April, while growth stalled in the first quarter, giving fodder to opponents and to street protests.

Boumhi last year started to receive a 228 euros monthly bonus on top of her salary, as part of government steps to improve the fate of health care workers, but she says that has not quelled her anger nor been enough to allow her to live more comfortably.
She will march on Sunday for salary increases and to push Macron to drop plans to raise the retirement age to 65 from 62. “If we don’t obtain anything, things could escalate,” she said. “There is a lot of built-up anger.”
Philippe Martinez, the head of the hard-line CGT union, will also be in the May Day rallies on Sunday.
And he has quite a few messages for the government.
“The government has got to deal with the purchasing power problem by raising wages,” Martinez told Reuters in an interview.
Macron “cannot repeat what he did in 2017, when he considered that all those who had voted for him agreed with his program,” said Martinez, stressing that many backed Macron both times not because they agreed with his platform but to block far-right candidate Marine Le Pen from being elected.
The CGT will call on workers to keep pressure on Macron in the streets and with strikes after the May Day rallies as well, he said, stressing that “if there is no pressure on the president, he will consider he has free reins to carry on anti-social reforms.”
And even the more moderate Laurent Berger, from the CFDT union, urged Macron in a tribune in Le Monde to listen to workers’ demands or face tough street protests. ($1 = 0.9492 euros)


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